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From Family Business In The Jungle To Serial CFO and Founder

Aarish Shah


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From Family Business In The Jungle To Serial CFO and Founder

Aarish Shah



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Aarish Shah EmergeONE
Full transcript here

About Aarish Shah

The BAE HQ welcomes Aarish Shah, the founder of both EmergeONE and Projected and the host of Nothing Ventured and Off Balance.

Sometimes founder stories can seem easy. Aarish's definitely wasn't.

He unexpectedly became a father in his early 20s and was forced to take on responsibility fast as well as trying to deal with the fallout. Eventually, he joined the family business but out in Papua New Guinea which was an incredible challenge.

Since returning to the UK, he became a CFO for multiple large organisations before founding his own companies in the space to transform the space, especially for startups!

We share a long rare discussion on the mental health of founders so you'll want to listen in!

Aarish Shah



Nothing Ventured

Off Balance

Show Notes

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Aarish Shah Full Transcript

Aarish Shah: [00:00:00] I've had everything from people coming into the office with guns. I had one of my factories burnt to the ground and everything in between. And, you know, went through some very, very dark times, suffered from depression because I was pretty much on my own. I had nothing. I had, therapy has allowed me to understand what were the things that, that actually sat behind those feelings of anxiety at the time.

Aarish Shah: And, and those issues, one might look at me and say, well, hold on. You got two businesses and two podcasts. You don't sound that lazy, but I'm lazy in the sense that I'm always looking for ways to. Make my life easier. You've got to absolutely, you know, remove your ego from the business.

Amardeep Parmar: Welcome to the BAE HQ podcast, where we inspire, connect, and guide the next generation of British Asians. Today we have with us Aarish Shah, who is the founder of EmergeOne, the founder of Projected, and the host of Nothing Ventured and Off Balance. How are you doing today? 

Aarish Shah: Really well, thanks Amar. Great to be here with you.

Aarish Shah: Really excited to do this.

Amardeep Parmar:  So you've got one of the longest LinkedIn's I've ever seen. So we're going to try and cover as much as we [00:01:00] can on the important bits during this episode. And when you're growing up, right, did you ever believe you'd be doing all the stuff you're doing now? 

Aarish Shah: So actually probably not.

Aarish Shah: So the interesting thing is growing up, I was part of a massively entrepreneurial family. We're a sort of third generation family business operating out of Africa and Australasian and North America. And I guess growing up, I always anticipated that I would join the family. business and do that. So I didn't really think about doing anything for myself.

Aarish Shah: It wasn't until a lot later in life, uh, that I actually embarked out on my own and started doing my own thing. But as a young person, I was massively interested in pretty much everything. I'm a, I'm a huge generalist and you know, I was very lucky and fortunate to be exposed to kind of business ideas from a pretty early age to the extent that, you know, as a teenager, I was

Aarish Shah: bootlegging kind of mixtapes in, in, in school until the deputy head got hold of me and told me no more. But, you know, I grew up during the eighties and nineties, I was massively privileged and was, you know, in an [00:02:00] independent school with hindsight is, is actually the wrong place to breed entrepreneurialism because these schools really, what they do is they take

Aarish Shah: pretty bright individuals and turn them into kind of middle managers and managers. And you're sort of put on that path of being a lawyer, doctor, accountant, or maybe working in banking, et cetera, et cetera. So, you know, there's something to be said about, you know, schooling the creativity out of people.

Aarish Shah: And we need to get back to kind of schooling that creativity back in. Again, I was fortunate. I was doing lots of creative things. I, I did drama, I did music and that allowed me to keep that kind of creative side of my, of my brain working. But yeah, as I say, for me, entrepreneurialism was what my family was.

Aarish Shah: It was, you know, it was baked in and it wasn't until sort of, I got into the, the, the, the business that I realized that a lot of what we're doing was what I would call intrapreneurialism. So rather than focusing on how do you grow and expand beyond. It was more about managing and running the businesses, which, you know, ultimately for me, I'm, I'm someone who I think [00:03:00] probably has undiagnosed ADHD became quite sort of frustrating quite quickly because it was never new.

Aarish Shah: You were just sort of doing the same thing. 

Amardeep Parmar: Before you started the family business, were you excited by joining the family business or was it just something you felt like you were going to? Do, was there an excitement there? Was it you you wanted to go and join it or..

Aarish Shah: The backstory to that is kind of incredible as well.

Aarish Shah: I got married, well not married, but I, I met my now wife very young, just in my final year of university and, and she actually fell pregnant during that time. And obviously I come from a South Asian background. I'm in a Indian by origin of Kenyan birth and my wife was Italian and it was quite not the done thing, if I can put it that way, putting it mildly.

Aarish Shah: So there was a period where I didn't actually think I was gonna join the family business and I started off, you know, as most people do in, in kind of a normal career, if I can put it that way, but, you know, with also having, you know, a young child to provide for and my partner as was, and now my wife. And it wasn't until sort of several years into that journey that I did join the family business.

Aarish Shah: I would definitely say that it was something that was [00:04:00] baked into my ethos, right, in, in that the family business was something that had been quote unquote, sold to me from a very young age, there was no questioning whether I would or wouldn't join at some point, at least for me internally. And so it was always something that I knew at some part of my life, some stage of my life I'd be doing.

Aarish Shah: The reality is again, when you're young, you have certain expectations about how things might be and you. You have rose tinted glasses to some extent. And for me, the family business was something that was vastly important and, you know, an essential part of my life. So yeah, I mean, for sure. It was definitely something that I knew I was going to do.

Aarish Shah: Was I excited about it? I'm not sure. I think I was excited about carrying on this legacy of three generations. In fact, more than three generations to be honest now. Um, and you know, hopefully helping to build something that, you know, my, my grandfather and his brothers had, had started off back in the 1900s.

Amardeep Parmar: Yeah. And there's some of that period where [00:05:00] imagine, say you've, you've got a new baby and your whole life you've been building up to you're going to work for the business and that's now potentially been taken away from you. What was that like mindset like then, right? And if you're gonna, you said you're going into a normal job.

Amardeep Parmar: What was the driver there? Was it just a necessity? Was it like, how did you cope with all of a hell of a lot of pressure. One is being a young father, but also then having, what was your future life just seemingly pulled away from you? 

Aarish Shah: I'd  love to say I coped with it well, but you know, I was a 20 year old, 22 year old or something along those lines.

Aarish Shah: And yeah, it was completely out of necessity. In fact, what had happened was I'd headed out to Italy where, where my daughter was born. Uh, she's wonderful. She's actually in a final year, final stages of university. So I'm blessed to have an incredible daughter in her and, and, and in my second daughter who was born several years later, but

Aarish Shah: uh, in Italy, it was impossible to find a job. I, you know, had a UK degree, which wasn't recognized and in Italy, things work very differently. You know, I, I studied languages at, at university and whilst here in the UK, you can pretty [00:06:00] much go into any role with any degree. You know, the, the only things you need to be trained in a very specific profession, such as, you know, law and, and medicine and so on.

Aarish Shah: So in Italy, it was just, there was no way I was going to get a job. So after about three or four months there, we came back to the UK and, uh, yeah, completely out of necessity found a role and, and was initially a temporal, um, and, uh, you know, built, built from there and learn. And I think, you know, one of the things I'm again, hugely fortunate about is, you know, I have a, I have a, an ability, I guess, to synthesize new, uh, skills and new information pretty quickly.

Aarish Shah: But I think the most important thing that happened at the time was one of the elders in the family who sadly has now passed away. He said to me, you know, Arish, life is like a bottle of Coke. Uh, when you open it up, uh, everything rushes to the top. Um, but just give it time and things will settle. And that's precisely really what happened.

Aarish Shah: But, you know, to an extent was blessed because if I hadn't have joined PWC, BPO, uh, Nortel and Deutsche Bank as I, as I, as I did in those [00:07:00] early years. I wouldn't have qualified as a Chartered Management Accountant, quite likely. I wouldn't have actually been able to build the life that, that I've since been able to build.

Aarish Shah: Because the skills that I learned, you know, I, I learned VLOOKUP, reconciling 27 accounts over, over the course of one night. Because, you know, things hadn't been done for, for, for a couple of years or whatever. You know, I, I self taught myself a bunch of stuff that... I think otherwise I probably wouldn't have.

Amardeep Parmar: And then  you said when you went into family business, it was different to how you expected, but you were there for some time, right? It was about nine years.

Aarish Shah: Yeah, it was about close to 10 years. So it was different from the perspective that you're working within the constraints of what has already been built rather than going out and building something new.

Aarish Shah: I think most family businesses, well, I say most, but a lot of family businesses can be quite cautious. There's also, you know, there's a saying that, you go from shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in three generations. So your first, first generation is the visionary generation. It kind of starts things up. Second generation builds on what was, what was, uh, built and the third generation often, [00:08:00] you know, to use a colloquialism spaffs it up the wall because, because they're just not engaged or, you know, they, they don't have, you know, the motivation.

Aarish Shah: But I was highly motivated and very curious. And a lot of the things I did when I joined the family business was to change the way things were done in, in, in the sort of operations I was working in, mainly around data, actually, funny enough, providing ourselves team with how they were tracking on a daily basis, giving them KPIs and, and, and objectives.

Aarish Shah: And within the first few months, it sort of tripled revenue and was doing some, some interesting stuff. And let's face it, also operating, this was out in Papua New Guinea, which for those of those of your listeners that don't know is the back end of nowhere, you know, north of Australia, a hugely challenging environment to be in.

Aarish Shah: You know, I've had everything from people coming into the office with guns. I had one of my factories burnt to the ground and everything in between, you know, at a political level, we had at one stage, two prime ministers, two chiefs of police, both sort of vying for that top slot. And, you know, we went through a period where

Aarish Shah: Exxon came in [00:09:00] and built a 27 billion dollar LNG plant. It completely inflated the economy and then came crashing right back down again when they, when they stopped the build phase. So I often call it an MBA by experience because you're at the coalface. You're doing things that, you know, you wouldn't do in a

Aarish Shah: office job sitting in London, we're working with suppliers in Southeast Asia, impossible to find great management. You'd have to insource that from, from India or the Philippines or Australia or New Zealand or wherever it might be. That could take six, eight months to get a visa or a work permit. And, you know, we had, we had scenarios where I'd hired in sort of controllers into the business and they'd been waiting so long for, for their visas that

Aarish Shah: they simply said, well, we've taken a job elsewhere. And so I, I, at various points was like acting CFO. I was the CEO. I was, you know, helping with the ops. Not that I did this very often, but I remember like offloading a container whilst I was there. And, and you just, you just learn how to do things when you don't have technology supporting you, when [00:10:00] you have limited processes and systems.

Aarish Shah: We had, you know, when I, when I first went out there, there was relatively little coverage, if any at all for mobile infrastructure wasn't until about 2007, 2008 when Digicel came out there that they really brought mobile and data to, to, to, you know, to the country, people were still writing checks to, to make payments when I left.

Aarish Shah: There wasn't really online banking in the way that we recognize it. So, you know, these are all, all. Incredibly interesting challenges to overcome as someone in business, because you have to learn how to deal with those things in a way that today we, we really don't, we don't even think about. 

Amardeep Parmar: What's really interesting  there is about how it's such a different experience to also working in office in London.

Amardeep Parmar: Right? But there's a reason why most people don't go and do business in Papua New Guinea. Right. Because you said it's so tough. They had all these different challenges. Was there any point where you're like, why, why am I doing this? Why don't I just go back to London and take it the easy route? What kind of kept you in that challenging environment?

Amardeep Parmar: Because obviously you had the choice to come back to something more easier. 

Aarish Shah: Yeah.  Look, that, [00:11:00] that's a great, that's a great question. And it's one that I think about a lot. So in the first five years of my time there, my wife and my daughters were out there with me. Uh, for the, for the most part, there was a period when my wife came back to have our second daughter, but for the second five years or four or five years that I was out there, they were living in Brisbane and then Melbourne, and I was traveling to and from Papua New Guinea, and that became hugely stressful and, you know, went through some very, very sort of dark times, suffered from depression because I was pretty much on my own out there, I would say that I probably stuck it out.

Aarish Shah: Longer than I should have, I was probably there three or three years more than I probably would have wanted to be, to have been. And that was for a couple of reasons. That was loyalty to the family for sure. It was also probably apathy on my part. You know, it's easier to do what you're doing than than make a change, but

Aarish Shah: you know, what, what essentially I learned was I'd stopped learning, you know, by, by the last few years, I stopped learning. And again, you know, going back to what I [00:12:00] was saying, I'm, I'm a massive generalist. I enjoy a lot of variety. You know, as, as, as you mentioned earlier, there's, you know, two businesses and two podcasts keeps me relatively busy today.

Aarish Shah: In those days, I was doing the same thing again and again, and that actually, it turns out. It's not where my skillset lies. It's not what I'm good at. It's not what I enjoy doing. And so when, when we finally made the decision, I have to say the decision was, was predominantly made by, you know, my wife and me together, but it was driven by my wife, her family's all in Italy, she doesn't love traveling and she wanted to be closer to her family, ultimately, you know, you've got to think about what is important in life and whilst

Aarish Shah: you know, my family is massively important to me and what they've built is massively important, both to me and in its own right, I had to look after my immediate family as well and do what was, what was right for them. But the thing that kept me there to an extent was the challenges. Like I would get very bored sitting in an office doing the same thing day in day out, which ultimately was what happened out there.

Aarish Shah: But I think, you know, [00:13:00] having worked in those environments in Deutsche Bank and PwC and Nortel, they are great at the early stage of my career, cause I learned a bunch from them. I learned from, from the people around me had some great mentors, but I fast outgrew those sort of environments. And I'm just not the sort of person that can sit in an office and do the, do the same job.

Aarish Shah: And also I think I have an inherent issue with kind of authorities. So I, I, I struggle to be told what to do and you know, I like taking my own path. 

Amardeep Parmar: So you also mentioned there about the dark times and the depression as well, right? And as we were talking before the podcast started as well, how we're both in therapy at the moment and how big a thing that is, right?

Amardeep Parmar: And I think a lot of times people are entrepreneurial, for example, even people who are leaders in different fields, right? Because they're putting so much pressure on themselves and we have this cultural stigma in many ways that still exists and we're trying to get rid of it about people taking therapy, especially if you're in a high power situation, right?

Amardeep Parmar: Because people think, Oh, can they not handle it? Whatever it is. But you said like how much therapy has helped you. So I'd [00:14:00] love to just, if you could share that with the audience. 

Aarish Shah: Yeah, for sure. So, I mean, I did a bit of therapy when I was, when I was out there and going through those times and that really helped.

Aarish Shah: Coaching also helped, although I only did a couple of sessions, but it helped me actually figure out how to take the next step and come here. I was massively anxious about coming back to the UK because I just had, I had nothing. I had no network. I had no balance sheet of my own. I had nothing, you know, to, to work with and, and

Aarish Shah: you know, I really didn't know what I was going to do. And I also didn't know where I fit. I think is probably the best way of putting it. I really started therapy in earnest just under a year ago. There's a couple of things, right? So firstly, therapy is a sign of strength. I think rather than a sign of weakness, people who are doing therapy often go into it

Aarish Shah: to discover more about themselves and understand how to cope with the things that are challenging in their lives. For me, that was things like alcohol. It was things like relationships. It was things like what drives me to do the things [00:15:00] that I'm doing. And I found it massively valuable in a way that I, I think you can do lots of things to kind of do self discovery, as we were saying earlier as well, actually, you have to go really deep into yourself to understand what motivates you and what drives you and what, you know, what are the things that trigger you as well.

Aarish Shah: And I think this is the important thing and to go back a step, you know, when I was out in New Guinea, as an example, you know, there were times where we were struggling with making payroll when, when, when our factory burned to the ground, like we had to let a whole bunch of our employees go clearly and, you know, we had

Aarish Shah: banks to pay, we had clients that were relying on us for, for materials, we had suppliers to pay, et cetera, et cetera. And those were really tough times. And I didn't know how to extract myself from the business. Like to me, my ego was really wrapped up in, in, in the business. I kind of saw that as me and what therapy I managed to overcome a lot of that.

Aarish Shah: Just through the learnings, right? But I went through that pain at the time, but the therapy has allowed me to kind of enhance [00:16:00] those learnings and, and, and understand, okay, what were the things that, that actually sat behind those feelings of anxiety at the time and, and, and those issues, you know, rather than focusing on work, how did I deal with it?

Aarish Shah: It was more about, well, what caused me to feel like that in the first place? And I mean, one of the biggest pieces of advice that I give to founders all the time is, you know, you are not your business. You've got to, you've got to absolutely, you know, remove your ego from the business. You've got to treat it as, you know, a completely separate entity, which it is in law, right?

Aarish Shah: Like your business is not you because, you know, things can go up, things can go down and you don't want your mental health to suffer as a result, right? Nothing is that important. Nothing is so important that, you know, it destroys your relationships. It destroys your relationship with yourself. It leaves you burnt out and in pain.

Aarish Shah: And, and a hundred percent in the South Asian, the Indian community, for sure. You know, mental health is still not something we talk about enough. You know, there's stigma around therapy. There's stigma, stigma around people being diagnosed with, with mental health conditions. [00:17:00] But the reality is that they exist.

Aarish Shah: And actually, if we de-stigmatize, you know, going out, reaching out getting help, then actually we'll, we'll have a better, more thriving, more inclusive community as a result, couldn't recommend, you know, taking the steps to either find mentors or coaching or therapy, whatever is right for you at whatever stage of life you're at.

Aarish Shah: But, but I, I definitely think that for me, it's helped me build better relationships with my family, you know, my wife, my daughters, but also my parents and others. And it's helped me understand myself. 

Amardeep Parmar: There's so many people who have quite large platforms who always talk about how that whole hustle culture mentality, right?

Amardeep Parmar:  And a lot of it comes down to this idea, for example, I see it about relationships in particular, right? Where somebody might say, Oh, you need to make sure that anybody you date knows that the business comes first than them. Or like, and it's just like, is that really the message you want to put out there?

Amardeep Parmar: But there's people sharing these messages, may have millions of followers, people reshare it. And [00:18:00] there's this idea, it's kind of a seed mentality that I think sometimes people try to instill not, it's easy in some ways to target entrepreneurs, right? Because like I said, the ego and the security and your identity is heralded from your business.

Amardeep Parmar: If you keep telling them you need to, anything that attacks your business is attacking you. If people aren't supporting you, they're against you. That's like a lot of my friends, like they don't necessarily need to listen to every podcast. It's like, I don't listen to everything they do. I don't, if they, it's like my friends are doctors.

Amardeep Parmar: I don't know how many lives they've saved in that day. If they've done, if they're an accountant, I don't know how many spreadsheets they've done. So why, if you're in the public sphere, you're doing your own business. You expect everybody to spend so much time on what you're doing, right? They can be friends of you for the person you are beyond that.

Amardeep Parmar: And that's a really important thing I think for so many people is that you are somebody beyond your business, right? And it's a mistake I think a lot of people make is they give up their hobbies. They give up the stuff they're doing on the side, and then you do just start to become your business. If you don't have anything else around you, what do you talk about if all you're doing is your business?

Amardeep Parmar: And it's really important for people to, like you said, make sure you've got other stuff going on, whether it's [00:19:00] relationships, whether it's got hobbies, whether it's just things you just do for fun, just for you, right? Your own time, self care. 

Aarish Shah: It's balance. Right. And, and I think, you know, the pandemic highlighted

Aarish Shah: how desperate people are for balance. The fact that people have been able to work from home, those of us that have been lucky enough to do that, you know, realize that actually, you know, what spending that extra hour with my kid in the morning or, you know, being present at dinner in the evening actually is, is hugely valuable being able to go out for that half an hour walk, 40 minute walk.

Aarish Shah: It just adds so much value to your life that you can't, you know, that you can't really quantify, but it's immediately noticeable. And I think you know, hustle culture is something that I absolutely despise I abhor. A lot of it's performative. Ultimately it is, Oh, look at me. I'm, you know, I'm constantly online or on, you know, I've seen a lot of stuff of late and I think it'll happen again because we're in this sort of down cycle generally in the, in the kind of early stage ecosystem, [00:20:00] certainly where, you know, if you aren't working

Aarish Shah: 24 seven, then are you actually doing a disservice to your investor? Well, no, you're not like, you know, you, you, you, in fact, if anything, you're doing a disservice to your investors, if you are working that much, because at some point you will burn out. And I've seen a lot of, I don't take a holiday or I have my laptop with me when I'm on holiday or whatever.

Aarish Shah: And okay, cool. You do you. I mean, like, if that's, if that's what gives you pleasure in life, great. But like, try having two kids. And doing that, it doesn't work, right?

Amardeep Parmar:  It's also having a  good relationship with those two kids, right? That's the important thing, right? Some people have two kids who they have no relationship with, because they're working all the time.

Amardeep Parmar: I was like, is that how you want to live your life? Is that when you look back on your life, what are you going to regret more? 

Aarish Shah: A hundred percent. And like, that I regret. I mean, I spent five years effectively as an absent father. I think I was doing sort of two weeks there, One week back at home or three weeks, two weeks, whatever it was.

Aarish Shah: And, you know, I missed lots of my, my children's, you know, major sort [00:21:00] of life events. And actually, you know, I've been working at home from home rather for the last sort of three years maybe. And that's just given me such a massive insight into my younger daughter, you know, how she is and what she does and what motivates her and what, what she loves doing.

Aarish Shah: And. I mean, there's not, there's nothing that compares. I'm like, as you say, do you want to die saying, well, I built a billion dollar business, but I've got no one to share it with because like, I had no friends and family because like, I basically just, you know, threw them under the bus or carved them out of my life.

Aarish Shah: So no, I mean, like I think, and look, there will always be people that, that, that will prioritize one thing over the other for me, family relationships, friends, you know, they're an important part of my life and I wouldn't want to, I wouldn't want to be in a position where they were secondary, right? They'll always come first, but that's not to say that you can't be a great business as well.

Aarish Shah: The thing about business is not about keeping [00:22:00] yourself busy. It's doing things smart. It's figuring out ways actually to do, do more whilst doing less. And I think a lot of people, especially founders, because they have this propensity to try and do everything themselves, end up doing everything themselves.

Aarish Shah: Mediocrely, rather than doing a few things really well. Uh, and I think if, if more of us sort of concentrated on focus on what we're great at doing and then give the stuff we're not good at doing to other people, we probably live more balanced lives. 

Amardeep Parmar: And  I think what's interesting there as well is how the whole performative side of it, right?

Amardeep Parmar: And it's like, you should be focusing on your results or like, let's say your impact that you're making. If the biggest thing you can boast about is how hard you work. But you haven't, you're not actually, you haven't got any customers or you haven't done anything, you haven't helped anybody. That's not the point of pride.

Amardeep Parmar: But sometimes it becomes, it's almost an Olympics of like, who's worked the hardest, rather than who's making a biggest impact, who's changing. If you're, like, what is your company's mission? Are you actually achieving that mission? That's what you should measure your success against, rather than how hard you're working.

Aarish Shah: It's, it's because it's, it's the incentives [00:23:00] are wrong, right? So, so the incentive to post about stuff is to get followers. Who are the followers? Followers are people that will look up to you and, and potentially, you know, value what you're saying. They're not going to be interested in, okay, I added another a hundred customers.

Aarish Shah: Maybe they are. I don't know, but they will be interested in, okay, this guy's a success, successful, theoretically entrepreneur or whatever. I want to emulate them. Well, what do they do? Oh, well, they, they, they work, you know, 24 seven, et cetera. And the reality is controversy sells. So, you know, the more controversial you can be, uh, the more likely it is that you're going to get eyeballs and clicks and, and, and, and equally, you know, the, I was talking to, you know, the producer of, of, of my podcast, uh, nothing venture off balance, he goes.

Aarish Shah: You know, the best thing that can happen is for people to, to come on and basically tell you why you're wrong, because then you can engage with them and get them onto the podcast and talk about, well, why, why do you think I'm wrong? And, and so on. And that's where we're at, like with social media, especially if part of it is clickbait, part of it is saying things to [00:24:00] generate, you know, eyeballs, um, because eyeballs drive traffic and ultimately,

Aarish Shah: if you are trying to sell a product or a service driving more traffic to, you know, to you, is going to help drive traffic, one hopes to, to, to your businesses. And I think that's why a lot of people do it. I take the view. You just got to be yourself. That's that's the best way of, you know, being, uh, online, just be authentic 

Amardeep Parmar: With me, right?

Amardeep Parmar: If I'm talking about how hard I'm working, I'm too mad as a problem. I'm working. I'm complaining, right? I'm working too hard. And if like you said, it's. me not giving up things I need to be giving up. And sometimes it is difficult to actually make that switch. But I complain about it to let people know this is what I'm doing wrong.

Amardeep Parmar: So if I keep saying it out loud, sooner or later, someone's like, just bloody do it, right? Like, stop complaining about it. And just like, I know, for example, like one of the things I'm doing, but like over the weekend, probably it's making a bunch of videos about stuff that I'm doing at the moment that we can then hire an intern to do.

Amardeep Parmar: And if you're listening right now and you want to work for us, let us know, because we've got plenty of work that I don't want to be doing more that we can get somebody else to do. [00:25:00] I think that's where we tie that into with Emerge One, right? Because you were being a CFO, right? For multiple companies and you realized, well, why don't I just make this a lot easier?

Amardeep Parmar: And rather than me being me all the time doing this individually, you can do Emerge One and you can do Projected as well, because it's how  you do scale up, right?

Aarish Shah: Emerge one's an interest. So I'm, I'm someone that does things relatively emergently. I didn't necessarily have a set goal in mind. Right. What I saw was, you know, I'd come back to the UK.

Aarish Shah: I'd been CFO in an ed tech startup, which is JV between Eton college and, and founders factory. So I was, I was immensely again, privileged, right? I, I, the first thing that I did back in the UK, I was sat 10 foot away from Brent Hoberman. And learn like about startups, you know, at the ground floor of what is now, you know, one of the, one of the most prolific accelerators in, in the UK and, and, and, and becoming globally as well now.

Aarish Shah: And I realized there was this gap in the market for portfolio sort of fractional CFO work with venture venture businesses. So, [00:26:00] yeah, so I started doing that and then realize ofunch of things. So one, you know, there's a limit to the number of businesses that I could work with. There's a limit to the number of the amount of time that I have to work.

Aarish Shah: Right. So I can't scale myself. How do I do that? So, well, so, so the first thing was like, I don't like working with one business. How do I scale that? Well, I can work with multiple as a portfolio. Then I realized I can't scale myself. How do I do that? I was, I was getting approached by sort of CFOs and FDs who kind of, they liked the content that I put out.

Aarish Shah: They realized that I'd, I'd built some great relationships. So I started putting them into, into roles and in 2020 as the pandemic hit, like I just doubled down on that and built, you know, merge one into what it is today, which is, you know, consultancy that provides CFO support to venture backed tech startups and scale ops.

Aarish Shah: And that is very much our niche. And it's exactly, you know, it's exactly what we, what we do and what I'm proud of doing. And absolutely. So, so the way to scale an agency is you got to bring people in that, that, that said, you know, not necessarily underneath you, but can deliver the services that you're, you're, you're doing, you're providing.[00:27:00] 

Aarish Shah: And again, it comes back, actually, everything comes back from this inherent laziness that I have. Right. So one might look at me and say, well, hold on, you got two businesses and two podcasts, you don't sound that lazy. Like, yeah, I, I'm, I'm not lazy in, in the sense that I don't want to do anything, but I'm lazy in the sense that I'm always looking for ways to make my life easier, whether that's learning, you know, macros when I was 22, 23 years old and automating the processes I was working on, whether that's today now learning to, to, to write Python badly and figuring out maybe ways of automating that.

Aarish Shah: And actually projected again, was born out of that same idea. Well, okay. We we're now, you know, we're an agency we're dealing with, you know, how many clients we've got. But how do you scale that further and how do you scale that more? And so the thought process I had was, you know, there are millions, you know, 

Aarish Shah: there's 5.8 million SMEs in the UK. There's 30 million in the U S right. There's a lot of small businesses and they contribute a lot of the GDP of, of, you know, of any nation, [00:28:00] but they're underserved, right? Most of them can't afford a CFO. Uh, most of them, they have an owner manager who's sort of getting along and projected for me was, you know, how do I virtualize myself?

Aarish Shah: How do I actually make myself redundant? And, and this is always a thought process I have. How, how do I make myself redundant and move to the next thing? How do we get. The core financial information that businesses need straight to the inbox. And that's what we're doing. You know, we haven't built a dashboard,

Aarish Shah: We built an email and that's counterintuitive for a lot of people. But as you know, as someone that's been a CFO and a founder, ultimately everything I do is about communication. The numbers are sort of 10 percent comms is about 90%. So, you know, so, so, for me projected was just a natural extension of what we were doing at emerge one is how do we scale that up further and indeed, you know, not nothing ventured off balance of both sort of extension further extensions that because that's how do I share the knowledge and understanding and help people learn about [00:29:00] venture or about business in a way that is accessible.

Aarish Shah: And meaningful, um, from, from people like them. And one of the things, you know, nothing venture that we're really proud of is that I built that podcast to be as diverse as possible. So, you know, we have, you know, our guests have been sort of, you know, 50 percent female, 50 percent minority ethnic, because

Aarish Shah: these are the voices that make up the world and why aren't we hearing from them? 

Amardeep Parmar: So it is incredible. Like what you've got to now and like it's so much, there's so much to try and cover in the episode there. So we'll have to get you on in the future again to see..

Aarish Shah: Happy to.

Amardeep Parmar: What,  where you've got to as well.

Amardeep Parmar: But let's jump to the quick fire questions. who are free appreciations, you'd love to shout out that you think the audience should be following and listening to?

Aarish Shah: It's really hard to give you three, I'll shout out a couple of people for sure. So Gautam Sahgal CEO of Perkbox. He has been a friend and advisor and investor in Projected.

Aarish Shah: He is an awesome, one of the most kind human beings you'll ever meet, really down to earth, but, but really giving with his [00:30:00] time as well. Rajan Dosanjh, another one of my investors again has been just like, he's, he's actually been a massive support. You know, when things haven't been going great, you know, he's, he's there to kind of pep me up and, and, and make sure I'm, I'm on track.

Aarish Shah: And then there are so many others that I could mention, but like all the CFOs that projected, uh, sorry to merge one, you know, uh, I couldn't do what I do without them. My CTO Kaylie at Projected and my front end dev Stella and my CMO Ben, you know, they, they've, they've built the product to what it is today.

Aarish Shah: I've, I've just sort of tinkered at the edges, I would say. 

Amardeep Parmar:So,  thank you so much for coming on. Have you got any final words to the audience? 

Aarish Shah: One thing that I learned late in life is always back yourself, right? Don't listen to what other people have to say. Don't hold yourself up to other people's standards.

Aarish Shah: Hold yourself up to your own. Look for help because people are always willing to help, but always be yourself. And, you know, the final thing I would say in closing is serendipity is the most amazing thing in life. Build relationships for relationships sake. Don't expect [00:31:00] anything to come out of them, but when things do, they can be magical.

Aarish Shah: Uh, as I found with this, uh, with this podcast, uh, it's been really great to be here. Thanks, Amar. Really appreciate it. 

Amardeep Parmar: Hello.Hello everyone. Thank you so much for listening. It meets a huge amount to us and we don't think you realize how important you are because if you subscribe to our YouTube channel, if you leave us a five star review, it makes a world of difference. And if you believe in what we're trying to do here, to inspire, connect and guide the next generation of British Asians.

Amardeep Parmar: If you do those things, you can help us achieve that mission and you can help us make a bigger impact. And by doing that, it means we can get bigger guests. We can host more events. We can do more for the community. So you can play a huge part. So thank you so much for supporting us.

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